I recently spent a good deal of time in the car with my husband. We were traveling to see my mom and then driving back, all in a long weekend. It gave us time to catch up on some podcasts. We listened to the first several episodes of the current season of Invisibilia. It’s a lovely show from NPR. Here’s the description from their web page:
Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.”
One episode, entitled “The Pattern Problem,” stood out for me. I’ve already been thinking about the habitual patterns that each of us adopt, mostly unconsciously. Much of my recent Buddhist philosophical readings has touched on this subject. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy workbook I’m using in therapy is all about this. The whole Facebook data scandal also touches on this topic: Just how much can a lot of data actually predict human behavior? One thread of the story in “The Pattern Problem” follows a computer scientist trying to use the computational power of supercomputers to predict what factors make a successful person. I’m not going to tell you what the computer scientist learned. I hope you’ll listen to the podcast to find out.
Here’s a quote from Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart:
We are stuck in patterns of grasping and fixating which cause the same thoughts and reactions to occur again and again and again. In this way we project our world. When we see that, even if it’s only for one second every three weeks, then we’ll naturally discover the knack of reversing this process of making things sold, the knack of stopping the claustrophobic world as we know it, putting down our centuries of baggage, and stepping into new territory.
If you ask how in the world we can do this, the answer is simple. Make the dharma personal, explore it whole-heartedly, and relax.”
Patterns affect us. We fall into our own personal habits. Humans as a species seem prone to certain patterns. Yet there is also an element of chaos to the world. It is worth noting where patterns exist in one’s self and where they don’t. When do you consciously make choices and when do you let the habit make the decision for you? What do you actually control and what just happens to you?
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